Share our Passion

Women’s History Month: Amazons–An Endangered Species?

Women’s History Month: Amazons–An Endangered Species?

For over two thousand years, the faces of the Amazons have been veiled in mystery. Who exactly were these foreign warrior women that pop up again and again in ancient literature? One of the main problems with the Amazon legend is that it is made up of numerous conflicting stories about women … all told by men. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking the Greek male of yore looked up to these formidable femmes the way our men of today get all steamed up about female superheroes in squeaky-tight outfits. No, without a doubt the tales of Amazons searing off breasts and killing their male offspring had the same function then as scary bedside monster-stories have today. They were, in other words, intended as a warning, not a career option.

It’s no secret that patriarchal societies were the hot new thing back in Antiquity, and that most Greek wives of that era would have had to admire the lovely ruins and sandy beaches through a very small, cob-webbed window from the top floor of the prison that was their home. Why, we might well wonder, were their men so afraid of female autonomy? Is it conceivable that their guard was up because of something dangerous lurking out there in the wilderness, beyond the village boundary?

Thanks to the efforts of archaeologists, we now have compelling reasons to believe the Amazons were the last, stubborn remnants of a matriarchal way of life that held sway in the Mediterranean region over three millennia ago. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not necessarily talking about a benevolent world order with peace, love and kumbaya, however, evidence suggests that some societies did indeed have widespread gender equality if not downright female dominance. Unquestionably, such societies would have been perceived as primitive or even perverse by the misogynist Greeks, and slowly but irrevocably, these matriarchal enclaves were pushed farther and farther East, to the point of extinction. They were, to put it bluntly, an unwanted species—a dangerous, seductive force that threatened the stability of so-called civilization. The Greeks had a little taste of female empowerment each year during the Thesmophoria—a religious festival for women only—and, thank you very much, had no desire to make it a habit.

So, what did she look like, the Amazon she-devil lurking at the fringes of polite society? The most likely picture is that she belonged to a quasi-nomadic, Eastern tribe that depended on all its mature, agile members—regardless of gender—being able to ride horses and use weapons in defence of their kin. After all, the disarming and disabling of women is a luxury only established societies can afford. In the state of nature, every hand is needed to ward off famine and violence; it would be societal suicide to raise girls who didn’t know how to handle a weapon.

Our Amazon, then, would have been tough, alert and versatile, her every action devoted to survival. The threat of extinction kept her going, and I bet she could have out-run and out-punched any male gym-buddy of today. What about her looks? Did she douse herself with deadly chemicals to look like a goddess? Not likely. Did she zone out a hundred times a day to stare at silly nothings on her phone? If she did, she deserves to be extinct.

I say our Amazon was smarter than that, and I believe she has survived to the present day. I see you out there, sisters, spending your precious spare time on exercise, not afraid to sweat, and I want you to know that you’re not alone. You belong to a proud lineage of a threatened species that refuses to give in to the fatal stupidity of the age you live in.
Let’s not accept to only see the world through a very small, cob-webbed office window. And let’s not throw away precious hours on silly nothings. Get up, run for your life, and sweat like an Amazon! Say no to extinction; your sisters need you.

Anne Fortier Anne Fortier grew up in Denmark and divides her time between Europe and North America. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Juliet. Fortier also co-produced the Emmy Award–winning documentary Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia. She holds a Ph.D. in the history of ideas from Aarhus University, Denmark. The Lost Sisterhood is her second novel in English.